9 More Horrible Mistakes You’re Making with Your Association Marketing

Marketing Mistakes

I started this blog about 15 months ago and my most popular post with nearly 1,500 views is 9 Horrible Mistakes You’re Making with Your Association Marketing. So I thought I’d write a follow-up post to identify more areas where you may be making horrible marketing mistakes.

1. Your Marketing is Outbound-Only

You still believe that outbound email, direct mail, telemarketing, and trade shows drive leads. Yes, I said it, direct mail is a waste of your money and time (I can hear the old school association marketers already bristling – see the comments section below to tell me how wrong I am :-)). In essence, you don’t recognize that today’s buyer is in control, not you. Buyers decide when they want to buy and when they want to interact with you. So why aren’t you embracing and kicking butt with inbound marketing? Why aren’t you creating the right content for the right people at the right time? It isn’t easy but the alternative is obsolescence…

2. Missing Buyer Personas

If you are still spamming people with spray and pray marketing tactics, you aren’t focused on developing buyer personas. However, ALL of your marketing efforts need to begin with buyer personas. Buyer personas give you insight into what keeps buyers up at night and how your association can solve their problems. Buyer personas, combined with content marketing, position your organization as the thought leader and chief problem-solver in your industry. Check out this great post about Buyer Personas for more info.

3. No Self-Disruption = Hanging on to Old Ideas

If you aren’t disrupting yourself, you aren’t pushing the envelope with your association marketing. Self-disruption is about continuous learning and always challenging the status quo. I was at the ScaleUp Summit this past week and heard the phrase “leaders are readers” multiple times. It’s true. If you aren’t reading and learning, you’re stuck in the past. And so is your marketing. Check out this post I wrote Are You A Marketing Disruptor for some ideas on self-disruption. So start disrupting your thinking now or someone else will!

4. No Content Mission Statement

Many association marketers don’t have a content mission statement. The objective of the content mission statement is threefold: define the target audience, determine what will be delivered, and identify what the outcome is for the audience. Without this overarching statement, your content efforts are aimless. You may have a destination but you have no idea how to get there. With buyer personas and mission statement in-hand, you can effectively develop your content strategy and fill out your content calendar. Check out this post I wrote about developing a content mission statement and content marketing for more information.

5. Blog As Afterthought

Your blog is the foundation of your content marketing efforts. So why are so many association blogs…well…just blah? Why are they afterthoughts? Perhaps because you’re using your blog to make announcements and share press releases? Isn’t that a waste of your time? Aren’t you missing the meaning of a blog? Done right, your blog can replace your outdated e-newsletter (I’m hoping your newsletter isn’t still printed…) by focusing your time and energy on creating persona-focused (and member-focused) content that is distributed automatically via RSS emails. This will save you time by not having to struggle with clunky HTML e-newsletters. You’ll focus your efforts on creating great content instead!

6. Lacking Lead Magnets

A lead magnet is an informative piece of content that introduces a buyer (or member) to a topic or solves a key problem. It’s a chunkier form of content and typically comes in the form of an ebook, research paper, or buyer’s guide. Lead magnets attract buyers at the top of the marketing funnel (TOFU) where buyers are looking for initial answers to business problems – and they allow you to start the conversation with your buyers. If you don’t have lead magnets, your lead generation efforts are hamstrung.

7. Not Using Forms to Gate Content

A horrible marketing mistake often made by associations is allowing visitors to download content (especially lead magnets) without requiring information in return. Forms capture information about leads and, ideally, contain “smart” fields that allow you to progressively build buyer profiles. That is, they recognize on each subsequent download who the visitor is and dynamically present new questions to gain more information about the buyer or member (organization name, age, title, which buyer persona they most closely reflect, etc.). If you aren’t using forms you are making a huge marketing mistake! Check out this post by Hubspot for more on this subject… 23 Types of Lead Gen Content to Put Behind Your Landing Pages.

8. Not Nurturing Leads

Even if you have lead magnets and forms for content downloads, you may not be using marketing automation to nurture your leads. Platforms like Hubspot, Marketo, Eloqua, or Act-On allow you to create workflows (also known as auto-responders) to send follow-up emails (preferably from a sales person) to your leads offering more content and the opportunity to strike-up a dialogue. If you aren’t using marketing automation you are behind and missing out on potential revenue for your association.

9. No Marketing Funnel

Are you measuring your marketing and sales funnel? Not sure what I mean? Well, with inbound marketing, there are two ways to segment your buyers: through buyer personas and/or lifecycle stages. A lifecycle stage indicates where a prospect is in your marketing funnel – they typically include lead, marketing qualified lead (MQL), sales qualified lead (SQL), opportunity and customer/member. The marketing and sales funnel identifies how many buyers are currently in each lifecycle stage. So, if you understand the conversion rate from one stage to another you can predict the health of your marketing funnel and your association revenue as a whole. That is, if you know that you convert 10% of leads to members in a 30-day period (and you have 50 leads currently) then you’ll know that you’ll most likely bring on 5 new members in the next month. Pretty cool, huh? I’ll write more about this topic soon!

So what do you think? Do you recognize some of these horrible mistakes?

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  • Susan ,

    I loved the article and have been studying inbound marketing to get it going. I do recognize some of the mistakes above and realize I need to slow down in my marketing, plan buyer personas, developing lead magnets and forms to gate content. I’d love to hear more about the marketing funnel you mentioned.

  • Dave Martin ,

    Susan – thank you so much for your feedback. The funny thing is that I am working on a blog post on exactly that topic…the inbound marketing & sales funnel. Look for a post this weekend and hopefully we can continue the dialogue!

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